By Joe Guzzardi
November 4, 2013
U.S. Representative and former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan (R-WI) avidly supports comprehensive immigration reform. Maybe Ryan isn’t the fiscal conservative he proclaims to be; analysts estimate that the Senate immigration bill, versions of which the House has under consideration, will cost $6 trillion within 50 years, increase unemployment and further depress already stagnant wages.
Ryan claims that the U.S. faces a long term labor shortage. As Ryan told Laura Ingram on her radio show, the U.S. needs to get busy right away to create an “immigration system that works to bring people to this country who want to contribute.”
Immigration advocates like Ryan are too loose with the facts and ignore other realities that debunk their amnesty arguments. First, the U.S. already has an “immigration system” that brings workers into the country. As of January 1, 2012, 13.3 million legal permanent residents as well as 1.9 million non-immigrant residents, mostly guest workers, students and their families, live in the U.S. Over the last 20 years, the U.S. has admitted, on average, more than 1 million immigrants a year. Immigration reform would legalize at least 11 million illegal aliens and grant them work permits. The labor pool, already overflowing, can’t accommodate more.
Even a casual observer would agree that America has a generous immigration policy and that the U.S. has a sufficiently high immigration rate to satisfy labor needs. Here’s proof. According to the federal Current Population Survey, since 2009 legal immigrants have gotten two-thirds of the net jobs increase, displacing in many cases American workers.
Job creation doesn’t keep up with population growth, and the few jobs that become available are mostly in the low paying service sector. More part-time than full time jobs are the norm, a trend that may become permanent when the Affordable Health Care Act is implemented. Obamacare requires employers to provide insurance to full time employees which it defines as a scant 30 hours weekly; employers who can’t afford to pay the insurance bills will rely more heavily on part-time staff.
Without acknowledging that today’s economy is troubled, Ryan prefers to direct the debate to what the future labor market will be. Here are two things Ryan conveniently disregarded. First as long as immigration remains on autopilot, at least a million new prospective workers arrive annually. Second, according to a new Oxford University report, over the next two decades, up to 45 percent of all U.S. jobs will be automated.
Oxford predicts that most of the positions eliminated will be those that don’t require high levels of “creative and social skills.” The authors foresee human displacement occurring in two phases: initially affected are jobs in production labor, services and sales. Within several years, management, science, and engineering jobs will slowly disappear. Americans who rely on traditional 9-5 employment will suffer the most. Conversely, corporations will benefit as automation’s cost savings mount up. Full employment is not business’ objective. Companies aim to maximize profits by minimizing labor and other overhead.
Ryan is wrong about the labor market on two counts. One, the U.S. already has an excess of labor which Ryan’s amnesty would exacerbate. Two, because of continued immigration and automation, 20 years from now jobs will be scarcer than they are today.
Since facts don’t deter immigration advocates, Ryan and his like-minded congressional allies will press on with their amnesty agenda. With the stakes so high, Congress is morally obligated to tell American workers the truth about amnesty and its consequences on their families. Better yet, legislators should stop promoting immigration reform until, at the earliest, America returns to full employment.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1986. Contact him at [email protected]